Old Drum bill advances in Senate


Written by Muleskinner Staff

Managing Editor

A statue of Old Drum sits in front of the Johnson County Courthouse at the corner of Hout and North Holden Streets.

(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Old Drum is one step closer to being named Missouri’s historical dog.
Senate Bill 376 was passed by the Senate general laws committee Feb. 15 and is now headed to the Senate for approval. After Senate approval, the bill must be approved by the House. If passed and signed by Gov. Eric Greitens, the bill would designate Old Drum the historical dog of the state of Missouri.
Old Drum was a dog whose death became the subject of an 1870 court case at the old Johnson County Courthouse on Main Street in Warrensburg, where the plaintiff’s closing argument originated the expression “dog is a man’s best friend.”
Old Drum was shot and killed Oct. 28, 1869, by 12-year-old Samuel Ferguson, according to a Johnson County Historical Society informational brochure. Leonidas Hornsby, Ferguson’s uncle, testified that dogs had killed 100 sheep on his farm that year, and Ferguson shot at a dog on his property – not admitting it was Old Drum.
Attorneys for Charles Burden, Old Drum’s owner, claimed Hornsby vowed to kill the first dog that came on his property, according to the brochure. George Graham Vest, one of Burden’s attorneys and later a U.S. senator, delivered the closing argument that would come to be known as the “eulogy to a dog.” The speech claimed that Burden lost more than a dog – he lost his best friend, according to the brochure.
The jury found for Burden after hearing Vest’s argument, according to the brochure. Burden was awarded $50 for the loss of his “best friend.” The verdict was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court, according to the brochure.
State Sen. Denny Hoskins, the bill’s sponsor, said naming Old Drum Missouri’s official historical dog would help with tourism and economic development in the area.
“We have a lot of dog lovers not only across the state but across the United States and across the world,” Hoskins said in a phone conversation. “Making Old Drum the official state historical dog and telling more about the Old Drum story and where the saying, ‘A dog is a man’s best friend’ came from, would definitely help economically here in Missouri.”
Hoskins said he has been working on this bill in some form for the past six years. He said he thinks Old Drum definitely merits consideration.
“There’s a bust of Old Drum in the Missouri state Supreme Court where attorneys rub the bust of Old Drum for good luck before they head in for a court case,” he said. “And I just think the history of Old Drum… it was really about the first time both Confederate and Union attorneys came to work together.”
There is a competing bill in the Missouri House that would designate Old Drum the official historical dog of Missouri while naming the dog known as Jim the Wonder Dog Missouri’s official “Wonder Dog.” House Bill 674, sponsored by Rep. Dean Dohrman of the 51st District, is still in committee.